Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oh Deer! You didn't say "on your left" when passing.

If you throw a leg over a bike you should know that it's common trail etiquette to either ring a bell or say "on your left" or "passing on left" or some variation of that when you go by anyone going the same direction as you on the trails.

Today I was shocked when a real live white tailed deer passed me near 32nd & Holdrege on the bike path and didn't even have the courtesy to say "on your left". You can see him (maybe) in the picture, near the window, on the right side of the maintenance building.

I'm not sure if I was more shocked to see a deer in town, or by how thoughtless he was not to say "on your left" or "good morning" or anything.

"On your left"...

I say it many times a day. But it's something I always struggle with. Namely proximity and volume. Do you have that problem too?

# 1. Tone:

When I'm approaching a walker (For those who don't know, it's like bike riding without a bike. Just slower and not as fun.) I always try to sound really positive and encouraging, at least as best as I can in three words. Ever heard that when your on the phone you should smile, because it comes across in your voice? I figure it holds true for warning pedestrians as well. So, unless the bugs are really bad I smile and say "On your left" then, just to put the icing on the positive vibe cake, I often say "good morning" or "Hello" (depending on the time of day) as I go by. Yes, I've caught my share of bugs in the teeth from smiling and biking but most of them can be spit out quickly.

# 2. Distance & Volume:

When approaching a pedestrian or slow cyclists I try to say "on your left" way before I get to them. I try really hard to say it loud enough that they can hear me over traffic, lawn mowers, or whatever other background noise there is. But on the other hand I don't want to be so loud that I startle them or sound like I'm PO'ed. To make this even harder, most walkers & joggers have ear buds or headphones, and if their anything like my kids, the volume is so loud your efforts are hopeless and you just pray that they stay the coarse and don't break into a dance and electric slide into the left lane the moment you go by.

# 3. Dogs:

The best dog walkers have them nearby and are either on the walkers right (dog walks in grass) or both the dog and walker are on the right side of the trail, leaving the left lane open to pass in. How many times have you seen walkers with Kujo on a mile long leash stretched across the trail like a clothesline put up to kill cyclists? Do cyclists make good dog food or why do they do that? By the time they get their dog back on their side of the trail... heck has froze over. The only time I get a kick out of this is when I (accidentally of course) say a little too loud and grouchy sounding "ON YOUR LEFT!" and make the walker jump out of their skin. The adrenalin causes them to make a swift jerk on the leash that often sends the dog sailing through the air with it's legs outstretched toward the ground. As the dog flies across the trail and continues through the air like a rocket until the poor pooch runs out of leash again (now on the right side of the trail - 40 feet up in the air) the dog walker looks more like a kid flying a kite. And the expression on the dogs face is to die for! Ha! And what's up with these people that take their dogs off the leash? I will not be held responsible for the damage I do to your dog if it even so much as nips my heal. I'm not mean, but I don't like dog bites, and would not hesitate to introduce my heavy bike lock to your biting dogs noggin. Please keep your pooch leashed for their safety as well as ours.

My favorite walkers are the one's that aren't wearing today's podcast of Howard Stern in their ears. And that give a bit of a wave with their left hand or a nod of the head to let me know they heard me. The best one's even say "thank you" as you go by.

So, always say "on your left" so they can hear you with enough notice to move out of your way without scarring them. Unless they've got a mutt stringing a clothesline across the trail in an effort to get a lycra chew toy, if that's what you ride up on, you have my endorsement to scare the crap out of them by yelling "ON YOUR LEFT" inches from their ear as you bunny hop over the leash and look over your shoulder to see the walker flying his dog like a kite.

And remember to keep an eye peeled for those thoughtless whitetails that think they own the trail.


  1. When coming up on a walker or jogger I always ring my bell when I'm 50-60 feet back, so they know I'm coming, then say "On your left" as I pass by. If they have a dog, I watch pretty carefully, and maybe slow down, since I know they can't control what the dog might do.

  2. I always give an OYL when I'm approaching & a "Thanks" as I pass. Frustrates me when others don't do something similar.

  3. awesome post...I'm all for doing anything that keeps the community liking cyclists!



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